Tag Archive | women in politics

Why so few Women in Donegal Politics?

Why so few women?

Did you know on the 6th April 1899 Ireland held its first county and rural district councils elections as set out by the enactment of the Local Government (Ireland) Act of 1898, an act which also gave women the opportunity for the first time to stand for election and a vote in these local elections?


120 years on local female political representation in Donegal stands at a mere 10.8% the highest it has ever been. Of the 37 County Councillors elected during the 2019 local elections, four were women. They include Marie Therese Gallagher (Sinn Féin), Rena Donaghey (Fianna Fáil), Niamh Kennedy (Independent) and Noreen McGarvey (Fianna Fáil). Noreen McGarvey was the only female councillor newly elected, the other three councillors were re-elected having won seats in the 2014 local elections when female representation stood at 8.1%.

With such low female representation the question arises why does Donegal not elect more women? People may say that’s just how democracy works or we shouldn’t be telling voters they should vote for a candidate just because they’re a woman. While these are valid points they do not get us closer to addressing the real problem that women are seriously underrepresented in Donegal politics. It also doesn’t address the issue of how can voters have an actual choice about who represents them when so few women are also not on election tickets. As a County is it therefore not about time we seriously evaluate how we both support and view women as our political representatives?

Working as a community sector organisation NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network knows Donegal has no shortage of talented capable women who would make ideal political representatives. So why did so few run or were identified by the political parties to stand?


The Reality

Women made up 20% (17 out of 85) of the 2019 Local Election candidates in Donegal compared with the 2014 figure of 13.2% (11 out of 83). These recent elections therefore did see a positive increase in the number of women running for local election which is really encouraging and great to see a range of women putting themselves forward, a trend we hope continues into the next local elections and beyond.

Seven political party’s ran candidates in Donegal, the three main parties; Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael all failed to reach a 30% female party candidate ticket list, to follow on from the general election required quota target of females on their party candidate ticket, although it should be noted during local elections this is not a mandatory legislated requirement. While of the 29 Independent candidates women made up 17.2% of them.

party female candiates

Prior to the local elections 70.2% of Donegal Councillor seats were held by three parties, Fianna Fáil on 29.7%, Sinn Féin on 24.3% and Fine Gael on 16.2%. Post-election this increased to a combined 75.6%, with Fianna Fáil at 32.4%, Sinn Féin at 27% and Fine Gael at 16.2%.

 

For these parties to hold such a high percentage of local political representation but have low female representation raises a question over their commitment to reduce gender inequality and support women especially in rural Ireland. With continued low level of female candidates, these parties need to ask some challenging questions to actually address this situation. For example;

  • Analysing and working to remove potential barriers which may be restricting women’s participation and development within their party;
  • reforming the way candidates are selected or nominated?
  • Encouraging the men in their party to be more actively supporting women to build political careers, even if it means putting theirs on hold?
  • Encouraging more women to run and women themselves to challenge their party status quo?
  • For parties to look at implementing mandatory local election gender quota systems?

These are all questions that need to be addressed if Donegal is to ever get closer to achieving a gender balance in political representation.


Electoral Areas

The Lifford/Stranorlar electoral area was the worst for female candidate representation with no women running in this area, while Carndonagh came top with 37.5%.

table female in LE areas

A number of women who were first time candidates also came close to winning a seat in their local electoral area. Eimer Friel (FG) in the Milford area missed out on the final seat by 110 votes just behind Ian McGarvey (IND) who was running for re-election. In the Carndonagh Area Marie Duffy (FF) missed securing the final seat by 292 votes behind Bernard McGuinness (FG) who was running for re-election. And in the Letterkenny Electoral Area Mary T Sweeney (Aontú) missed securing the final seat by 266 votes behind Manus Mandy Kelly (FF).

In the electoral areas were women did win seats, Niamh Kennedy in the Donegal area received the highest first preference votes and the highest overall vote count of the 19 candidates. Marie Therese Gallagher and Noreen McGarvey in the Glenties area secured the third and fourth highest first preference votes, finishing fifth and sixth in the overall vote count of the 13 candidates. And in the Buncrana area Rena Donaghey received the second highest first preference votes of the 11 candidates.

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An Equality Issue

“How can you inspire to be what you do not see?” women and girls need to feel that there is a place for them in Irish politics with the knowledge that their gender will not be a barrier to participation. With an overwhelming majority of politicians and decision makers currently being male, how can women feel like they have a place?  Donegal needs more female political role models. Women need to be seen and heard and girls need to have role models who will inspire them to become our future politicians and representatives of our communities.

Equal representation is a basic social justice, without it how can any policy or decision making process be equal or even sustainable when half the population has no input into the structures which makes the decisions. If Ireland is a society that wants to advance and develop sustainably it therefore needs to have men and women equally at the decision-making table.

Equal representation goes to the heart of how as a society we view gender equality, the social standard we set which shows and supports the belief that we are all equal, starting with those who represent us at a political decision making level. The question is how to we achieve this balance?


Moving forward

As a society we need to become better at supporting and encouraging women to engage and not undervalue what they can and do bring to politics. Over the years through the Donegal Women’s Network work and as a member of the 5050 group we’ve heard women say they’re either not interested in getting involved or running for election because it’s not for them. With others highlighting the barriers and challenges they have faced because they are a woman which includes the 5 Cs Confidence, Childcare, Cash, Candidate Selection and Culture, as identified in the 2009 commissioned report for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women’s Rights.

Another challenge to address is how do we support women who may feel they do not want to belong to a political party who may like to run as an independent, because there are unique challenges faced when running as an independent. All these challenges need to be researched, understood and addressed both socially and politically.

And while politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we need to acknowledge that politics does impact all our lives whether we like it or not, be it our ability to access public services, health care, even down to getting those pot holes in your road filled, the list is endless. We therefore have a vested interested to engage and follow what’s going on, as a community we should promote this. It’s particularly important women recognise the diverse knowledge and life experiences they have to offer which goes towards supporting and creating a more equal society for both men and women.

While the road to achieving better equal political representation in Donegal may seem long NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network looks forward to working on addressing these issues through our membership with the 5050 Group a voluntary national advocacy group dedicated to achieving equal representation in Irish Politics.


Coming up

On Thursday 13th June 11am-1.30pm, we will also be joining a panel of guest speakers at the

 ‘Celebrating Donegal Women and 120 years of Local Government’ event in Letterkenny Museum, co-hosted by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Donegal County Museum, celebrating the achievements of women in Irish politic and discussing the importance of women in politics, highlighting the experiences of women who enter political life and how we can support the increase of women in politics.

To register please follow this link

Donegal Invite

 

Where do Donegal 2016 General Election candidate’s stand on equal representation in Irish Politics

Oireachtas-women-1918-2008

 

NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network as a member of the 5050 Group North West carried out a questionnaire survey in order to collected general election candidates views on equal representation in politics, we received 15 responses with 11 full responses. Please click on a candidates picture to read their response:

Donegal Candidates who responded to the 5050 North West questionnaire

Thomas Pringle Pearse Doherty Paula Flanagan Pat Cope Padraig MacLochlainn Cordelia Nic Fhearraigh Frank McBrearty Jr Gary Doherty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Mooney

 

Donegal Candidates who confirmed their support for 5050 and/or equal representation

Paddy Harte

Paddy Harte, Fine Gael; stated “Once elected, I will do my best to support your cause”

Niamh Kennedy

Niamh Kennedy, Independent; stated “of course she supports equal representation”

 

 

 

 

 

Sligo-Leitrim Candidates who responded to the 5050 North West questionnaire

Chris MacManus Marie Casserly

 

 

 

 

Sligo-Leitrim Candidates who confirmed their support for 5050 and/or equal representation

Susan OKeeffe

Susan O’Keeffe, Labour; stated “as a founder of 5050 North West of course she supports the group and women equal” representation.

Bernard Sweeney

Bernard Sweeney, Independent; stated “he supports 5050 and has written about this issue on his website”

Where do Donegal Councillors Stand on issues of Equality and Social Inclusion?

dcc equaility answers

Where do the 37 Donegal County Councillors stand on issues relating to Childcare, Cuts to Carers, Domestic Abuse + Violence Against Women, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), Travellers, Women’s Political Representation and Equality within our society?

In early 2014, The National Women’s Collective- Donegal Women’s Network held a number of meetings to hear and collect what are the main issues locally and nationally for women in Donegal. Some of the issues discussed and debated were the lack of women’s representation, lack of local training and employment issues, cuts to home helps and services for the older person and people with disabilities, domestic abuse, lack of transport and accessible affordable community child-care. These meetings were supported by Longford Women’s Manifesto Project.

Following on from these meetings a questionnaire was designed by Network and an “Open Invitation” was sent out to the Donegal Councillors.

To-date the responses we have received have been insightful and we are delighted that all of the councillors who responded stated that they would work towards upholding and promoting the ethos of social inclusion, equality and human rights. Those who responded all agreed that gender equality is a fundamental principle underpinning the concept of social justice, and human and civil rights in Ireland.  And they further All pledged to sign up to the MAN UP campaign and to undertake a half day workshop on domestic violence in 2014 that would be delivered by Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service.

To read your local councillors full responses to our questions please click on their picture and you will be taken to their individual response. 


Donegal Electoral Area

Respondents 

  

As of 03/09/14 STILL WAITING to hear from these Councillors 

Barry O'Neill  Photo Clive  Wasson Noel Jordan Sean McEniff


Glenties Electoral Area

Respondents 

Marie Therese Gallagher  John Sheamais OFearraigh

As of 03/09/14 STILL WAITING to hear from these Councillors 

Michael Cholm MacGiolla Easpaig Terence slowey, sloweyt@eircom.net  Photo Clive Wasson Enda Bonner Seamus O Domhnaill


Inishowen Electoral Area

Respondents

Albert Doherty CiaranMcLaughlin 

 

As of 03/09/14 STILL WAITING to hear from these Councillors 

B McGuinness, mcguinnessbernard@gmail.com.  Photo Clive Wasson John Ryan Martin Farren Martin McDermott Nicholas Crossan Paul Canning Rena Donaghey


Letterkenny Electoral Area 

Respondents 

Jimmy Kavanagh gerry mcm Mick Quinn

As of 03/09/14 STILL WAITING to hear from these Councillors 

Ciaran Brogan - ciaran.brogan@donegalcoco.ie,   Photo Clive Wasson Cllr Ian Mc Garvey Dessie Shiels jamespatmcdaid@gmail.com, Photo Clive Wasson John O' Donnell Liam Blaney Michael McBride


Stranorlar Electoral Area

Respondents

Gary Doherty  

As of 03/09/14 STILL WAITING to hear from these Councillors 

Gerry Crawford Liam Doherty FG Martin Harley. marty.harley@hotmail.com  Photo Clive Wasson Patrick McGowan


Brought to you by the Donegal team at The National Women’s Collective Donegal Women’s Network.

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BE INFORMED…About your 2014 Local Election Candidates

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Where does your Donegal Local Election Candidate stand on issues relating to Childcare, Cuts to Carers, Domestic Abuse + Violence Against Women, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), Travellers, Women’s Political Representation and Equality within our society?

Early 2014, The National Women’s Collective- Donegal Women’s Network held a number of meetings to hear and collect what are the main issues locally and nationally for women in Donegal. Some of the issues discussed and debated were the lack of women’s representation, lack of local training and employment issues, cuts to home helps and services for the older person and people with disabilities, domestic abuse, lack of transport and accessible affordable community child-care. These meetings were supported by Longford Women’s Manifesto Project.

Following on from these meetings a questionnaire was designed  by The National Women’s Collective- Donegal Women’s Network  and an “Open Invitation” was sent out to the 83 candidates running in the local elections to respond to questions identified  as areas of concern by voters in Donegal.

To-date the responses we have received have been insightful and we are delighted that all of the candidates who responded stated that they would work towards upholding and promoting the ethos of social inclusion, equality and human rights. All agreed that gender equality is a fundamental principle underpinning the concept of social justice, and human and civil rights in Ireland.  All  candidates pledged to sign up to the MAN UP campaign and to undertake a half day workshop on domestic violence in 2014 that would be delivered by Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service.

To read your 2014 Local Election Candidates full responses to our questions please click on the candidates picture and you will be taken to their individual response. This we believe will give the electorate an insight into each candidate as well as giving the candidates an open forum which could be helpful in securing votes.


Donegal Electoral Area

   Joseph McN Bernie Mulhern


Glenties Electoral Area

joe mc carron Marie Therese Gallagher


Inishowen Electoral Area

eilis haden Mary McCauley Albert Doherty CiaranMcLaughlin 


Letterkenny Electoral Area 

 sio John Watson gb Jimmy Kavanagh gerry mcm Mick Quinn


Stranorlar Electoral Area

charile Gary Doherty Alan McMenamin  Claudia Kennedy


Still waiting to hear from (as of 15/5/14)

DONEGAL ELECTORAL AREA GLENTIES ELECTORAL AREA INISHOWEN ELECTORAL AREA LETTERKENNY ELECTORAL AREA STRANORLAR ELECTORAL AREA
John Boyle Padraig Doherty Paul Canning Liam Blaney Gerry Crawford
Brendan Byrne Seamus O Domhnaill Rena Donaghey Ciaran Brogan Patrick McGowan
Sean Mc Eniff Hughie McBride Martin McDermott Michael Mc Bride Martin Harley
Michael Naughton Ian Molloy Mickey Doherty Noel Mc Bride Bert Galbraith
Barry O’Neill Enda Bonner John Ryan Ian Mc Garvey Seamus Kee
John Mc Nulty Terence Slowey Bernard McGuinness James Pat Mc Daid Brian McCrea
Patricia McCafferty John Curran Peter McLaughlin John O Donnell Liam Doherty
Laurence McManus Micheal Cholm Mac GiollaEasbuig Martin Farren Tom Crossan Tim Meehan
Jonathan Kennedy Michael Mc Clafferty Joe Murphy Peter Cutliffe
Michael McMahon Brendan Carr Nicholas Crossan Donal Cullen
Noel Jordan Seamus Rodgers Patrick McCarroll David Fisher
John Sheamáis O Fearraigh Ryan Stewart  Charlie McLafferty
Paul Ferguson Paschal Blake
Billy Banda
Dessie Shiels

The BE INFORMED…About your 2014 Local Election Candidates Initiative has been brought to you by the Donegal team at The National Women’s Collective Donegal Women’s Network.

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